In 2020, we saw the demise, at least temporarily, of the nonprofit sector’s in-person events, including black tie affairs, golf outings, conferences, 5K runs, festivals and more. As the pandemic moves into a second calendar year, development officers know that these in-person events might return in some newer version of themselves in 2022, but clearly, damage has already been done. At the minimum, organizations will lose almost two years of large signature events that so many nonprofits are known for and rely on, most especially from corporate sponsorships.
In this environment, many nonprofit agencies are seeking assistance from foundations and corporate supporters that they have benefited from in the past, while some organizations are trying to develop new partnerships to address the critical gap they are now facing. Brandywine Health Foundation and many other nonprofit groups have been fortunate to maintain and even attract new corporate support. Businesses are still looking for these partnerships, so it is imperative for organizations to find and provide creative opportunities for visibility.
Recently, Brandywine Health Foundation launched a new virtual series, Let’s Talk Unified Giving. We were pleased that KeyBank quickly signed on as a corporate partner for the first two events, and Gawthrop Greenwood sponsored the third virtual event on Allyship presented on March 31, 2021. While some sectors have unfortunately been hit hard by COVID-19 and are unable to provide sponsorship support, other businesses are still able to give and are just looking for the right fit.
- The future of corporate giving is a concern for some charities. Overall, 44 of the 95 nonprofits that responded to a question about corporate giving trends said they saw more corporate gifts in the first half of 2020 than in the same period in 2019. Twenty-six nonprofits said the number of corporate donations had stayed steady compared with last year, and 25 said they had decreased.
- Foundation giving was a steadier source of support, with 61 of 105 charities reporting an increase in the number of grants during the first half of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. Additionally, many charities said their supporters had relaxed grant restrictions or gave more general operating funds to support activities, including fundraising, this year.
- Fundraising events remain a sore spot, even as some organizations find success with virtual gatherings. Of the 91 nonprofits that answered a question about fundraising events, 64 said the number of event donations their groups received declined in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period the previous year.
A pressing question of fundraisers during this challenging time is, “How should I make an ask to donors?” It’s really as simple as being direct and approaching the conversation with clarity, sensitivity, and respect. Transparency is vital, so it is critical to create the space for an honest conversation about what the organization’s immediate and long-term needs are, as well as the resources that would be helpful, whether it is cash or in-kind support. Nonprofits are likely to have more immediate success with partners who are already committed to the organization and its mission, including an even stronger potential with existing vendors. When approaching a potential funder, focus on those who are aligned and interested in your mission and area of service, but be patient — it can take time to cultivate those relationships, and build interest and trust.
As Chief Impact Officer with the Brandywine Health Foundation (BHF), Dana Heiman is in charge of donor engagement and outreach. The Brandywine Health Foundation is a responsive philanthropic organization that focuses on changing the persistent inequities in health care, housing, education, and economic opportunities in the Greater Coatesville, Pennsylvania area.